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Pine hoverfly restoration

Invertebrates are in decline globally and RZSS is determined to stand up for the little guys when it comes to species conservation. The pine hoverfly is so rare in the UK that no one has seen an adult of this species in the wild for over seven years.

In the UK, this critically endangered insect is currently restricted to just one site; a small forest patch in the Cairngorms in Scotland. To help boost the population of this important pollinator, RZSS has undertaken an ambitious conservation breeding project for pine hoverflies.

Breeding pine hoverflies in captivity is no small task, but our amazingly dedicated team of keepers at Highland Wildlife Park have put countless hours into creating a successful breeding programme.

This species has three life stages; larva, pupa, and adult, and each stage requires a different habitat. We raise our larvae in jam jars filled with a pine sawdust mulch that mimics the pine rot holes they rely on in the wild. Our flies pupate in moss, housed in empty hummus pots. The adults are then transferred to special flight cages for mating and, hopefully, laying eggs. All that hard work is finally starting to pay off!

In 2019, after three years of combined effort by keepers at both our zoos, we finally managed to take our pine hoverflies through a full breeding cycle in our pine hoverfly shed at Highland Wildlife Park. We are now trying to continue this success and increase the size of our conservation breeding population so that we can start reintroducing this species back to the wild.

Meanwhile, our partners at Rare Invertebrates in the Cairngorms and Forestry and Land Scotland are creating more habitat for pine hoverflies in the wild. Hopefully, this combined effort will result in the return of this species to Scotland’s ancient Caledonian pine forests. For the moment, we’re at a critical point, with the future of the pine hoverfly hanging in the balance.

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